Gender and Sexuality

These articles are freely available until 31 January 2015 on the Brill Website.

Islamic Law in the Modern World
Author: Aharon Layish
Islamic Law and Society, (Volume 21, No. 3, pp. 276-307)

An Epistemic Shift in Islamic Law
Author: Aria Nakissa
Islamic Law and Society, (Volume 21, No. 3, pp. 209-251)

Reconstructing Archival Practices in Abbasid Baghdad
Author: Maaike van Berkel
Journal of Abbasid Studies, (Volume 1, No. 1, pp. 7-22)

The Early Ḥanafiyya and Kufa
Author: Christopher Melchert
Journal of Abbasid Studies, (Volume 1, No. 1, pp. 23-45)


Istanbul, where minarets share space with commercial signs

Having spent a short eid vacation in Istanbul, I had the opportunity to walk around the Sultan Ahmet and Eminönü areas. The main streets near the Sultan Ahmet mosque and Topkapi were full to overflowing with tourists from just about everywhere. The lines to enter the major sites stretched for hour-long waits, so I decided it was more prudent to simply walk the back streets with no particular goal in mind. On the way to the Spice Suq, where many of the shops remained open to satisfy the crowds of tourists and merchants’ pockets, I saw the iconic duality of modern Turkey in full force. On one building is a commanding mural of Ataturk, but across the street rises a conservative Islamic center. Down the road from an Ottoman religious shrine there will be a Starbucks or Burger King. Outside a fashion store is a giant image of a vivacious woman in Victoria’s Secret-like underwear, as a woman in niqab walks by. East and West, Ottoman vs. Republic, liberal and conservative: contemporary Turkey is where academically unfashionable binaries rule the streets, if not the hearts and minds of many Turks.

Of course this is the touristic center of Istanbul, complete with the tram stop that always seems to have a crowd outside. There must be a hundred or more small hotels and just as many restaurants and cafes. Kebab (or Kebap, if you prefer) is cuisine’s sultan here today. We stayed in the delightful and relatively inexpensive World Heritage Hotel, where the hospitality and ambiance are superb, and only a short walk from the Sultan Ahmet mosque, whose majestic minarets we could see from our breakfast table. Of the many restaurants nearby, my favorite was Amedros, which offers a wide range of dishes beyond the ubiquitous kebab fare. For authentic Ottoman cuisine, be sure to visit Asitane, which is near the Kariye Camii and Chora Church Museum. Of course, the joy of being in Istanbul is the constant discovery of something you will enjoy. If you have never walked these streets and alleys, you are missing a jewel outside the museums, splendid as they are.

by Antonella Vicini, Reset Doc, September 12, 2014

In the ‘Great Game’ developing in the Middle East and amidst constant changes in diplomatic equilibria, as well as the deployment of armed forces to try and stop ISIS’ advance, the only certainty for the moment is the role the Kurds have over time cut out for themselves and their mandate from the most important European countries and the United States. This concerns not only the often discussed Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurds who have rather effectively opposed the Islamic State’s penetration since the beginning of the summer, but also Syrian Kurds, active since at least 2012 and without doubt less visible at least from a media perspective.

Syrian Kurdistan is a region mainly inhabited by Kurds in northern Syria and also known as Rojava, effectively the western part of the nation called Kurdistan. Since the Syrian civil war started, rather like what happened in Iraq after 2003, the Kurds have gained control over increasingly larger areas and achieved greater autonomy, although there has not as yet been formal acknowledgment as happened with Iraqi Kurdistan. The Syrian Kurds, after fighting Assad’s armed forces, have clashed with Islamists so as to defend their region, in a rather fragile area bordering with Iraq and subject to infiltrations from the Al Nabar province. They have become a force, fighting the Islamic State fanatics thanks to action taken by YPG, the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (Kurdish for the People’s Protection Unit), a regular army of about eight brigades spread throughout the area and also the armed wing of the Kurdish Supreme Committee. The female wing of the YPG is called the YPJ, Yekineyen Parastina Jin, the Women’s Protection Unit. (more…)

Turkish women defy deputy PM with laughter

Bülent Arinç said women should not laugh in public, prompting backlash and highlighting state of women’s rights in Turkey

by Constanze Letsch in Istanbul, The Guardian, Wednesday, July, 30 2014

Twitter in Turkey broke into a collective grin on Wednesday as hundreds of women posted pictures of themselves laughing.

They weren’t just happy. They were smiling in defiance of the deputy prime minister, Bülent Arinç, who in a speech to mark Eid al-Fitr on Monday said women should not laugh in public.

“Chastity is so important. It’s not just a word, it’s an ornament [for women],” Arinç told a crowd celebrating the end of Ramadan in the city of Bursa in an address that decried “moral corruption” in Turkey. “A woman should be chaste. She should know the difference between public and private. She should not laugh in public.”

On Wednesday thousands of women posted pictures of themselves laughing out loud, with the hashtags #direnkahkaha (resist laughter) and #direnkadin (resist woman) trending on Twitter.

Turkish men also took to social media to express their solidarity. “The men of a country in which women are not allowed to laugh are cowards”, tweeted one user. (more…)

Muslim Council of Britain says female genital mutilation is ‘un-Islamic’

Group issues explicit guidance for the first time, condemning practice which it says is no longer linked to religious teaching

by Alexandra Topping, The Guardian, June 23

The Muslim Council of Britain, the country’s largest Muslim organisation, has condemned the practice of female genital mutilation as “un-Islamic” and told its members that FGM risks bringing their religion into disrepute.

The influential MCB has for the first time issued explicit guidance, which criticises the practice and says it is “no longer linked to the teaching of Islam”. It added that one of the “basic principles” of Islam was that believers should not harm themselves or others.

The organisation will send flyers to each of the 500 mosques that form its membership, which will also be distributed in community centres in a drive to eradicate a practice that affects 125 million women and girls worldwide and can lead to psychological torment, complications during childbirth, problems with fertility, and death. (more…)

by Anouar Majid, Tingiata, April 15, 2014

The most controversial actress in Morocco and the Arab world gave me a tour of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. To say that it was a unique experience would, quite frankly, be a huge understatement. Parking attendants, men in uniform, women with hijabs and jellabas, food sellers and everyone—literally—who saw Latefa greeted her with smiles and affection. People took photographs with her and asked for new performances. She is truly a people’s artist, one who uses a container (labelled “cont’n’art”), among other tools, to foster awareness about health and difficult social issues.

The car ride, as you could see in the video, was, in itself, a fascinating spectacle. The free-spirited Latefa sang throughout most of trip, ending, most appropriately, with the theme of Carmen, reminding us that women are born to be free, not objects to be hidden away.

Here is a snap question: which does more harm to the image of Muslims, especially in the Western media: the political maneuvering of Egypt’s now outlawed “Muslim Brotherhood” or the savage acts committed by the self-styled Boko Haram in Nigeria? Boko Haram is well named, if you remove the Boko. I would have a hard time thinking of a more bloodthirsty and irrational group calling themselves Muslims, and there are far too many examples to choose from historically. Their kidnapping of some 276 Nigerian girls from a school to essentially enslave them is bad enough, but reports now surface of an indiscriminate killing spree in a crowded Nigerian market with over 300 said to be dead. The death toll from this group is measured in the thousands, both Christians and fellow Muslims becoming victims. Boko Haram espouses such a distorted view of Islam, that it is more accurate to label them a political terrorist group using the umbrella of Islam to carry out their barbaric acts.

Boko Haram is not alone. It is this kind of volatile mix of politics and religion that has plagued human history, probably from the start of recorded history. If one steps out of the Western preoccupation with the biblical tradition, the idea that any kind of just God would tell his ragged followers to kill every man, woman, child, ox, sheep and ass in a Canaanite city is a clear attempt to justify what most of us would rightly see today as a violation of human rights. The crusades and the bloody wars in Europe between Protestants and Catholics turned religion into yet another excuse to justify killing others. Hindus and Buddhists also have their blood-soaked moments, as do most known religions. The point is that “religion” is never separate from the real world except in some imaginary. It is myth that drives belief, whether from a sacred text written in a shroud of mystery or the quotidian alibi of personal experience. Those who take on the mantle of “God” show how little faith they really have. (more…)

By Abdullah Hamidaddin | Special to Al Arabiya News
Sunday, 4 May 2014

Last March, the “First Kiss” video was released on YouTube attracting more than 80 Million views so far. Not many people in this region were excited about it. For many here it symbolized the decadence and corruption of the West. Yet there were those who considered it interesting enough to inspire them into making a parody of it: “First Nose”. In it you have a set of guys ready to give each other a ‘first nose’.

In the “First Kiss” video the participants are embarrassed and nervous; it’s an awkward moment particularly because of the intrusive effect of the camera. And the same feelings were acted in the “First Nose” video.

There is a difference of course between a “first kiss” and a “first nose.” A kiss is an intimate act and so to kiss an absolute stranger in the presence of a camera can be quite awkward. But a “nose” is merely – or mainly – a handshake using other means. There’s no intimacy at all there. It would be hard to imagine anyone feeling awkward because he/she had to shake hands with complete stranger; camera or not. Even though the video is a parody it led to some misunderstanding. (more…)

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